Tag Archives: NTSB

Bureaucrats fight over the regulation of commercial space

Battle of bureaucrats: The FAA’s office that regulates commercial space (AST) and the National Transportation Safety Boad (NTSB) are fighting over the procedures AST should use to control and manage the work of private space companies.

The issues deal with how the FAA inspects the work of space companies, prompted by the NTSB’s investigation into the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crash in 2014. The kerfuffle also illustrates the absurdity of the regulatory responsibilities that Congress forced on AST when it amended the commercial space act in 2004. Somehow it is expected that bureaucrats in Washington will know better how to make sure a private company’s new space designs are safe than the very engineers who are building them. The disagreement here is merely about how the bureaucrats keep watch. The NTSB wants AST’s bureaucrats to hover over them like a worried mother. AST wants to hover from a little farther away, like a proud father.

In either case, the hovering will accomplish little to make the cutting edge engineering more safe except create fake jobs in the government for hovering bureaucrats, while squelching risky innovation since such risks go against the instincts of every bureaucrat.

Though Congress has recently revised the law to ease its regulations, they didn’t really do much to remove them. Expect these kerfuffles to get bigger in the coming years as the Washington bureaucracy moves to impose its will on this industry while simultaneously manipulating the press and Congress to create more useless jobs for themselves.

If they succeed, we should also expect them to succeed in making innovative commercial development in space become increasingly impossible.

Update on SpaceShipTwo investigation

Additional details about the investigation into the crash of SpaceShipTwo have now been released.

The investigators are focusing on the telemetry that the pilots were receiving, as well as the system for activating the ship’s braking feathering system.

As I have noted in the comments, we must try not to speculate on this subject, especially because this issue could do harm to innocent people. For example, some reports have incorrectly attributed the crash to pilot error. To say this now is false. All the investigation has noted is that the co-pilot took the first step to activating the feathering system, as he was supposed to do, though slightly early. The feathering system then deployed on its own, without the second command being given.

We do not yet know the finer details that make his action significant, or not. This is why the investigation is checking into the telemetry the pilots were getting, which might have affected when they did what they did.

We need to wait for more data.